TT is geographically and economically perfectly suited to invest in Venezuela, according to Venezuelan businessman Ricardo Solis who thinks that TT should capitalise on opportunities presenting themselves in the crisis struck country.
Newsday met with seven Venezuelans, all professionals now living in TT, who have been working here for several years and visiting/living for decades. Solis, a 46-year-old marketer said based on Venezuela’s location it can be a doorway into Latin America region where the market moves from 1.3 million TT nationals to hundreds of millions.
“The location of Trinidad is perfect but some see us a problem. Everyone who comes here wants to work and be productive. No one wants to steal your jobs. If you have 5,000 Venezuelans working here and they are not paying taxes does that make any sense?” Solis questioned. He said anything that can be shipped and sold should be and with the influx of Venezuelans in the country, they can be used to connect with other Venezuelans in other territories who would have made connections there. There already exists a network and a market, he said and all TT has to do is to utilise it.
Solis who has been visiting the country off and on for close to two decades, is married to a Trinidadian woman for the past 19 years. He added that apart from the unused opportunity through commerce there is also the opportunity for immigrants to be used to fill vacancies.
“We want this country to be better for everyone, it was built by immigrants, what’s the difference now? You can use the professionals that are here in the country” Solis said.
One such professional now in TT is Ilaima Molina, whose Crossings’ Arima home the seven gathered for the interview. Molina, 45, is the quality control officer for Sural a company in the $87 million aluminium facility at Tamana InTech Park, Wallerfield. Molina’s job is to get the company started before handing it over to a local to run Trinidad’s arm of the company which has been in existence for over 20 years with Molina there for the past 20.
“My main project is to teach them (local employees) how to manage the facility and then I go back home,” Molina who is not as efficient in her English as her counterparts said. The mother of two said since being in TT she has joined the Arima Catholic Church and her family has taken part in various cultural events including parang singing last Christmas.
Molina is overseeing the construction of the company as well as the running of it when construction is done. Sural will be manufacturing aluminum wheels. She has been in the country for the past two and a half years and is the only person in her family with a work permit while her husband and two daughters are dependant on her to survive.
The over-achiever in the group was psychologist Greisy Gonzalez, who along with NGO Freely Give, met President Paula Mae Weekes last month to discuss how NGOs can collectively impact TT rather than trying to do it alone.
Gonzalez is part of the Association of Psychologist of TT, Caribbean Kids and Family and MeToo TT as well as Freely Give. She plans to further her education and has not decided whether to do her masters in Psychopedagogy or Clinical Neuropsychology.
“Since I was 13 I wanted to be a psychologist, I love my job. I want to open a psychology firm in TT and open it to schools and companies and be a voice for my country. I want to expand my psychology to help more people,” Gonzalez said adding that her involving herself in so many NGO’s was just her way of giving back to the country that she now calls home for the past two years.
Adreina Briceno-Brown visited Trinidad 18 years ago to meet with her relatives. Her great-grandmother Lilian Holder left Trinidad and settled in Venezuela. Briceno-Brown brought her journalism skills to the country and launched a bilingual magazine aimed at bridging the gap between the two countries she considers home.
She has taught dance to secondary school stdents and currently teaches Spanish at four pre-schools in Arima. Her desire is to have her own cultural exchange space in Arima focused in showing locals that they are very similar to the Latin American counterparts.
“My objective is for Trinis to learn the Latin and South American culture. I want to teach them “Paso a Paso” which means step by step. I want to create La Casita which means little house but not little in size, more like intimate house like a family, everyone close” she said.
Venezuela’s crisis propelled Miguel Gutierrez, a mechanical engineer, who was given the Trinidad branch of Gyro Data, a technology company in the oil and gas industry, to run after his bosses realized how efficient he was. Gutierrez, 41, who has been working with the company for 11 years has been living and working in Trinidad for three years and said he loves the country. His wife, an attorney, is not working just yet but said the country needs to improve on their tourism thrust as both Trinidad and Tobago are lovely islands that have the potential to be greater.
The only one unemployed in the group is physician Alexandra Scott. The 39-year-old has been in the country for three years and applied for her residency. She hopes once this is approved she would be employed and begin to make a meaningful contribution to society.
“It is the process, it is slow but I have to give back I do not want to go back so I just have to be patient until I get it. I have my adopted family here now,” Scott said referring to the others in the house adding that her biological family is scattered across the globe.